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March Amber Grant Awarded to Norma

Friday, April 6th, 2018

On Monday, we announced our March Qualification Grant finalists. Today, we’re thrilled to introduce our winner, Lauryn Dempsey, Co-Founder/CEO of Norma

Norma’s mission is to empower women to take charge of their breast health. How are they doing so?  And how can you get involved?  Read our interview below and view their quick video to find out.

WN: Share with our readers some background on yourself and the genesis of Norma.

LD: To say Norma came out of nowhere is an understatement. Seven weeks ago, only two of the six women who co-founded Norma even knew each other. Our team formed in mid-February at Techstars Startup Weekend Women in Denver and we were drawn together after hearing Amelia pitch her idea to create a breast health app. From Friday night until Sunday afternoon, we researched breast health trends, identified market gaps, tested our product ideas with women, and finally came up with a solution to build an all-inclusive breast health app with a connected breast self exam reminder device. On Sunday afternoon, nine teams from the event pitched their company ideas to five judges and Norma was the unanimous winner.

As Denver’s Startup Weekend’s winning team, we won a trip to Paris to compete in a Global Startup Weekend Women pitch event on Mar. 7, 2018. Over the course of the next three weeks, we worked hard to build out our business model, better understand women’s breast health needs, and launch a basic breast self exam journal app before the competition. Of the 22 teams from 15 countries that participated, Norma took home third place!

While in Paris, we learned that we had been accepted to participate in the University of Colorado’s New Venture Challenge (NVC) in March. The three-week competition wrapped up on April 4 and we took home three awards: Women’s Entrepreneurship Prize, 3rd Place in the IT track finals, and audience choice award. Not only that, of the 117 teams that participated in the competition, we were awarded the third highest amount of prize money, which is invaluable as we bootstrap Norma and work hard and fast to bring her to life.

Needless to say, the past seven weeks have been a whirlwind, yet we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Not only are we a majority-student team, but four of us have personal family experience with breast cancer and we all know we are working on a problem much greater than ourselves. Something really special and unique happened that cold, snowy weekend in February that’s left a team of six women on a mission to help women around the world take control of their breast health and learn their ‘normal’ so they can detect something that’s not.

WN: Take us through how the app currently works. What upgrades do you have planned for the future?

LD: We launched a basic breast self exam journal app in early March as a way to test our concept and understand how women use the app. Over the course of the next few months, we will expand the journal’s functionality, as well as build out new features to include adding a breast health resource section, a community connect tab, and an ability to share data and journal entries with a doctor. In the future, we’d like to incorporate telemedicine so that no matter where a woman might be, or whether she has health insurance or not, she can always connect with a medical professional if she has breast health concerns.

As we build out our app, we will also be building an app-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) device that signals a woman to perform her exam. In our interviews with hundreds of women, we learned that the biggest reason they don’t perform exams is because they forget. We know an app notification doesn’t always spur action and that’s why we are building this simple piece of hardware to help women form a lifelong habit of monthly breast self exams.

Further, we are determined to have Norma be an all-inclusive breast health resource. While breast cancer and other breast health issues primarily impact women, men and the LGBTQIA community are affected by breast issues, too. Additionally, when someone receives news they have breast cancer, they aren’t the only ones touched by the diagnosis. It’s our hope that Norma also becomes the go-to resource for minority groups battling the disease, as well as for the countless friends and family members supporting loved ones battling breast cancer.

WN: What is your marketing strategy?

LD: Our goal is to launch a fully-functional app and begin taking IoT device pre-orders in October 2018, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month. October is six months away and we don’t want to wait until then to start helping women change their breast health habits. That’s why we launched the Norma Network of Breast Friends on Apr. 1! Each month on the first, Team Norma and our Breast Friend brand advocates text the women in our lives a reminder to perform her breast self exam and to #feelitonthefirst.

Through this grassroots campaign, our goal is to get women to start taking a proactive approach to their health, while also building brand recognition and loyalty. We love the work our Breast Friends do to instill healthy habits and will be featuring them on our blog and inviting them to test our app and IoT device before we launch.

We’re actively seeking more Breast Friends so please send us an email if you’d like to join: founders@knowyournorma.com

WN: What are your goals for the year ahead, and how can the grant money help you reach them?

LD: The next six months are a sprint for Norma as we build, test and iterate (and repeat!) our products with the goal of launching in October. It’s certainly ambitious, but we have proven our ability to work together to achieve milestones and we’re confident we can meet the October deadline we’ve set for ourselves. It’s pretty rare to have as large of a co-founding team as ours, but the amazing thing about it is that we have nearly all the tech and business skills required to bring Norma from idea to reality. With help from WomensNet, we are able to start reaching out to manufacturers to build our IoT device prototype and to better understand mass quantity production costs. We anticipate raising a seed round starting in mid-May, but with this Qualification Grant, we can address the business needs now that all companies face when starting out.

Thank you, WomensNet, for your help in making Norma come alive!

WN: Share some advice you would give to an aspiring female entrepreneur.

LD: Show up, put yourself out there, and find a team to support you in your journey. There are going to be highs and lows and you need a solid network around to get you through trying times. If you ever have doubts, think about the regret you would feel if you didn’t take a chance on yourself or your idea and just keep driving forward. You can do it and there are so many women ready and willing to assist you!

February Amber Grant Awarded to Don’t Forget The List

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

February marked another exciting and competitive month. Today, though, we’re thrilled to announce the 2nd Qualification Grant recipient of 2018 — Lisa Buie, Co-Founder of Don’t Forget The List.

DFTL is a unique company that specializes in planning Surprise Travel, Mystery Group Tours and Bucket List Tours. Lisa shares much more in our interview below.

​WN: ​Share the story of how Don’t Forget The List came about

LB: We first had the idea for our unique travel company at a moment in our lives when we were stressed out from the daily grind. We wanted to go somewhere, but didn’t know where, so we threw a dart at a map and set out on a weekend adventure. After recovering from a spontaneous road trip involving The Mothman, a haunted hotel in West Virginia, a dead cave and an epic horseback ride into the mountains of Kentucky, the light bulb lit and we decided we HAD to plan trips like this for other people.  The idea has grown and developed to now include group Mystery Tours as well.

The same spontaneous trip inspired us to start a yearly Bucket List of items that we add to and check off every year.  Our yearly Bucket Lists include items like skydiving, swimming with sharks and performing at an open mic night.  We believe that if you focus too much on the destination you miss the ride, and our company has been developed around inspiring others to have the same experiences.  “The List” in our company name refers to all of our Bucket Lists!

Our adventurous travelers have told us that waiting to know where they are going is one of the best parts, which tells us we are on the right track

The full story of our first epic trip can be found on our blog.

WN: Where are some destinations you’ve worked with and how do you decide on those destinations?

LB: While we don’t want to give away all our surprises, we can say that we love to craft unique surprise experiences for individual travelers as well as our group tours! We look for off the beaten path and unique locations to pleasantly surprise our customers.  For example, imagine sleeping in a luxury treehouse or snowmobiling to Old Faithful!  We meet with Destination Managers and Tour Suppliers from across the country to identify and select the places we send our travelers.  These colleagues ensure the locations and activities we send our customers to live up to our high standards.

WN: How do you strive to separate Don’t Forget The List from market competition?

LB: While offering Surprise Travel and Mystery Tours sets us apart, we also have other pretty awesome reasons we stand apart from our competition.

We love our amazing planet and want to ensure it is healthy for the next generation to explore.  Because we know the travel industry is inherently “dirty”, with all the carbon emissions involved in car, bus, train and air travel, we purchase carbon offsets for all of our trips, so our customers can rest assured that when they travel with us all they leave behind are their own footprints!  We work with a company called TerraPass that helps us offset the carbon footprint from each of our trips by investing in various earth-friendly projects and companies.  The amount we invest is calculated by the number of miles our busses and individual customers travel.

We are also dedicated to working with local small businesses in the geographical areas we visit. We aim to book accommodations at highly recommended local hotels or bed and breakfasts, and always supply travelers with a list of recommended local restaurants, retailers and entertainment venues to visit during their stay.

We also strive to make every trip Bucket List worthy.  While we are not the only company that offers Surprise Travel, we are the only one that custom creates journeys designed to ensure our customers don’t forget their Bucket Lists!  We strive to make sure our travelers are still sharing their epic experiences with their friends and family years after they travel with us.

WN: What are your plans for the grant funds?

LB: We have some lofty goals!  With a successful marketing campaign, we believe we can inspire a large audience of customers to live their lives fully and in the moment by restoring their sense of adventure through Surprise Travel and Mystery Tours.

Many of our colleagues believe Surprise Travel is the key to reaching the next generation of travelers. We want to be a major player in bridging the gap between millennials and baby boomers, and in boosting the travel industry as a whole.

Also, with some development and partnerships we plan on establishing a non-profit charity to fulfill the Bucket List items of terminally ill adults.

As a startup, reaching the public has been our greatest challenge by far.  Since gaining exposure is our biggest hurdle and as a startup we have limited funds, the qualifying grant we just received would be dedicated to marketing and promotions.  The money will help us get directly in front of potential customers at some larger travel shows as well as allow us to sponsor Surprise Travel trips for promotional events.  It will also help with printing expenses, video production and paid advertisements.

While the grant funds are a major benefit, the PR boost we receive from winning the grant is, in itself, super valuable!  Since exposure is what we need most, we are super excited and grateful to have been chosen for the qualifying grant and look forward to competing for the additional Amber Grant as well.

WN: Share some advice you would give to an aspiring female entrepreneur

LB: Go For It, Girl! 

My business partner Holly and I came to the realization that while we were working hard for other organizations and corporations, we were spending our valuable time and resources working towards other people’s visions, not our own.  Never doubt your greatness and ability to realize your dreams!  Take one day, one task at a time and before you know it your ideas that seem huge and crazy may one day set you up to inspire and transform your whole industry.

January Amber Grant Awarded to Madison Eats Food Tours

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

Last week, we revealed our January Grant finalists. After much deliberation, we’re thrilled to announce the recipient — Otehlia Cassidy, Founder of Madison Eats Food Tours.

Congratulations to Otehlia and each of the finalists. A special thanks to Otehlia for taking the time to respond to our interview questions…

Madison Eats

WN: What drove you to create Madison Eats Food Tours?

OC: I have always felt driven and inspired by connecting with people, especially people of diverse backgrounds. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to explore the world. I have been fortunate to travel all over the world, including places that many tourists don’t go and where I couldn’t speak the language – indigenous villages in the rainforest of Guyana, remote villages in Mali, West Africa or even towns in South America or Europe.

Even if you don’t speak the same language or have the same beliefs, you can share a meal. Eating and cooking are universal and offer a place for joy and conversation, appreciation and connection to each other. I wanted to build those relationships at home. I wanted to learn about the people in my community and to bring people together around food — who doesn’t love to eat?! Even here in Madison, where I have lived for 20 years, starting a food tour company has allowed me to develop meaningful connections within my community, and support our local economy — all while eating delicious food. It’s a great job!

WN: Some people might be unaware of all of the culinary offerings within Madison. Give us a sample of what one might experience in your city.

OC: Madison has been underrated as a food city for some time, but that is rapidly changing. We have a network of incredible chefs, including Tory Miller, who won the Iron Chef Showdown against Bobby Flay. Madison is also home to a diversity of food producers — we are home to the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country.

Chefs have immigrated here from all over the world, including a large number from Thailand and Laos. What this means is that our food scene is very diverse with quality ingredients and people who truly care about food.

We boast a top notch farm to table scene, and also family run restaurants such as Lao Lan Xang, a restaurant owned by Bounyang Inthachith, who immigrated here from Laos almost 30 years ago. She fled Laos with her 4 children after the Vietnam war. After arriving in snowy Wisconsin, speaking no English, she says that her youngest son cried for rice. She started cooking for him and soon was cooking for other people. Now her restaurant is one of the most popular in Madison. She in turn supports Hmong farmers, who fled the same war. On our food tours we visit these restaurants and learn about the stories of the chefs and owners, forging connections and exploring our community while enjoying a great meal!

WN: How have you marketed the business? What avenues have been most successful?

OC: I have been uncertain about the best marketing strategy. Honestly, that is my weakness. This year I am working with professionals to help work on SEO and developing ad campaigns on different platforms. I plan to put more effort and money into marketing this year as I plan to grow the company. Much of my marketing has been Facebook, Instagram, and my website, as well as word of mouth and Trip Advisor, where we are rated the #1 food tour in Madison! Other people vouching for your product is the best advertising.

WN: What are your goals for the year ahead, and how can the grant money help you reach them?

OC: As I mentioned, marketing has always been daunting to me. I plan to use the money to market more strategically. I will direct market to companies. I have already met with a web designer to make my site mobile friendly and to help develop ads for social media. I also want to grow what I offer and continue to directly support the diverse food producers in our community through developing new tours such as a farmers’ market tour, and tours that directly support minority populations, such as Black and Latino owned business, women and LGBT owned businesses.

WN: Share some advice you would give to an aspiring female entrepreneur.

OC: I have a few mantras that I rotate through my day. As women, we have to believe that we are worthy. You are worthy! It’s easier to be fearful and sit in our safe space that to risk failure or uncertainty, but take the risk, because all you have to lose is you. I firmly believe in a vision board/daily affirmations where the thoughts and wording are key. Rather than saying “I want” or “I will” say it as if it is happening already. “I own a successful food tour company and sell over 3000 tickets a year.” Your words are powerful. And so are you.

December Amber Grant Awarded to Imagiread

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Recently, we shared our December Grant finalists.

Today, we’re here to share the recipient of that Qualification Grant — Tiffany Rachann, Founder of Imagiread.

Continue on to read about how she’s impacting the lives of young students.

WN: What purpose does Imagiread serve and what drove you to start the business?

TR: Imagiread was born of out of my love for children’s literature and my passion for education. It started off as a bit of a hobby, happening shortly after I’d wrote and self-published my first children’s book entitled “It’s Water Time, Ma!”. The book is based on the real-life events of my family, where we esteem and revere water experiences in hopes to communicate how valuable the resource is. One day during a reading of the book at a friend’s Lemonade Day event, the director of a prominent educational organization approached me and asked if I would consider co-writing a S.T.E.M based literacy curriculum based on my book. I was excited to explore the opportunity as I’d previously written literacy curriculum for a youth advocacy and mentoring program. That one yes opened up the door to a world of imaginative possibilities.

Immediately after the program was implemented, I noted the reading struggles of many of the program participants. I reconsidered my goal of wanting to implore families to read together for fun and engagement and shifted my attention towards empowering families to strengthen their literacy fluency for fun and engagement. That meant taking a look at what literacy habits are for a variety of families and why. Which led me to conduct my own research.

I learned first hand through a number of experiments, community events, book giveaways and book readings what the challenges were and how they played a part in functional illiteracy as a whole. By in large, I started to analyze how literacy, and the access to quality programming, is a cultural challenge more than an “academic” one. I recognized the need for specialized programming that’s socially responsible, and both culturally authentic and appropriate thereby asserting relativity for all members involved.

I set out to develop my own proprietary program using what I’d learned and am happy to say that I’ve served approximately 725 children to date with Imagiread’s programming. That doesn’t include hundreds of children and families I’ve worked with through library and community partnerships. I’m encouraged to continue to support the community with custom programming and support. There is nothing like seeing a child make literacy connections as a result of interaction you’ve had with them. To have that impact extend to families and communities is invaluable.

WN: What type of response have you received from schools and parents?

TR: To date, I’m still shocked when I see a parent out and about who recognizes me from a program. I’ve had parents praise me for the work Imagiread does, citing how difficult it’d been getting their son/daughter to take an interest in reading before being incorporated. I’ve had dozens of parents inbox me sharing their child’s love for It’s Water Time, Ma! and taking the oath to be more hydrated while conserving water. I’ve had community organizations invite me to speak to their student body and have co-hosted a number of interactive author visits for child care centers and head start programs. Imagiread has been recognized for the programming by two of the local library systems and one of the largest schools districts here in Houston.

WN: What are your plans for the grant money?

TR: Imagiread is a one-woman show. To compensate for the opportunity to conduct thorough research by partnering with organizations and offering reduced-fee programming to schools that meet the criteria, I usually work two part-time jobs to support the company.

At the end of August, Hurricane Harvey devastated thousands of Houstonians leaving the city to rebuild what officials say will take years. Imagiread was effected and lost working equipment, books, inventory and teaching supplies. In addition to replacing some of what was lost, I’ll also be able to invest in a comprehensive digital marketing software tool that will automate the programs I’ve created so that they are available online with a complementary mobile app. Investing in such will not only streamline the research endeavors but also afford opportunities to sell more books and publish three new books that I’m working on. One is a how-to guide for parents; the second is a second practice workbook for kids (I currently have the first out already) and the third being a professional development resource for teachers and child care directors.

WN: Share some advice you would give to an aspiring female entrepreneur

TR: Know Thyself girlfriend! Imagiread is my lifelong dream. I can’t think of a thing that makes me happier than reading with children. Understanding that has helped me to savor that feeling when things have gotten super rough, and I couldn’t afford basic necessities. I understood that through it all that I’d found my mission and my purpose but not without having to get to know who I am and what my expectations for being an entrepreneur, writer, educator and single mom were. Know that your skills are deserving of an opportunity to make a positive impact. Believe in your dreams with all of your heart; creating a life we are proud to live is what this whole thing is about. Find a support circle that shares the same values and learn to create fulfilling relationships with your network — it’ll benefit everyone involved.

Lastly, continue to seek. Life has a way of answering your prayers. Invest in your personal and professional growth while taking care of yourself so that you can progress with ease. Balance is the key. Oh and lastly-don’t be so hard on yourself. Perfection is what you believe it to be.

WN: If you have anything else to share, please do!

TR: Sure thing! I read an article just a few months ago about how many women feel as if they could accomplish more if they had professional mentors. I remember thinking how I, too, wish I had a female mentor to really connect to. Being chosen for the December 2018 qualifying grant is what I believe a win-win dream come true. Not one but a group of women championing for the success of women everywhere is indescribable. I’m so grateful to be a part. Thank you so much again!

***All the best to Tiffany as she continues her journey with Imagiread.  Remember that we award at least 1 grant each month.  If you’re interested in applying, get started today.

2017 Amber Grant Awarded to Levity Products

Monday, January 1st, 2018

We believe in incredible people with amazing visions.

That was the foundation for our 12 candidates for the 2017 Amber Grant: Mom Made Peeks, ScriptoPro, Levity Products, Gabby Bows, aLoo, Yoga2Sleep, STEMed Academy, Mama Joy Foods, Pepper, Farm.Field.Sea, Omiga and WiGo Trips.

Congratulations to each and every one of you.

After careful and lengthy deliberation, we’ve come to a conclusion on the 2017 Amber Grant recipient ($2,500).

Congratulations to Sarah Olson, Founder of Levity Products. Please take a few minutes to read about Sarah’s impassioned motivation and mission.

WN: You earned a Qualification Grant back in January. Remind everyone of your backstory and mission with Levity Products.

Sarah: My middle son, Levi (5), was born with Spina Bifida. In his five years, he has had 15 surgeries! In 2016, he had 9 of them. It was a brutal year for all of us. Levi endured a lot of pain and infections from the device that had to be used to drain his bladder after every one of his surgeries. We ended up having to spend 60 nights total in the hospital that year, and the majority of it was due to the complication from the device he was forced to use.

By the beginning of April, he had already underwent 6 surgeries/procedures. He was so worn out and I couldn’t take it anymore. To watch my son in that amount of pain was maddening. I felt so helpless, as I would hold him screaming in pain. I was desperate to do something to help him.

By July, his 7th surgery was scheduled and I made an appointment with his Urologist to discuss what was going to happen. I remember sitting in that appointment and asking the doctor, “What else is there? We can’t use that device again. I can’t do it. I can’t watch him suffer like we have. It feels so inhumane! Please tell me there is something else we can use.” I will never forget the words he said next.

He said, “Sarah, there is nothing else. This is all there is to drain the bladder while Levi heals.” Then he jokingly said as he walked out the door, “if you want something different, you’re going to have to invent it.” In that moment, a light bulb went off. I couldn’t watch my son in pain anymore, so I thought, “well, I guess momma is going to invent something then.”

I have zero medical background and zero engineering skills. I was just a momma on a mission to help my baby. I had less than two months to come up with a device that could help him. One day I was thinking and praying about what to do and it hit me like a bolt from heaven. I had the idea. I asked a friend if he would help me bring my idea to life by helping me draw out dimensions to create a CAD for a 3D printer to print a prototype. We got it done in a matter of days and a couple weeks later, we had a prototype printed. I took it to Levi’s Urologist and said, “do you remember telling me that if I wanted something different that I would need to invent something?” He laughed and said yes. Then I pulled out my prototype and said, “So I invented something. Will you try it?”

He looked at me with a blank stare and said, “Sarah! You know I was joking right?” I replied, “I know you were, but I wasn’t. Will you please try it.” He tried it right there in the office and it worked. IT WORKED! He told me he would use it under one condition…I had to file for a patent, and then he would use it on Levi for his surgery that was 29 days away.

I scrambled and worked hard with another friend of mine to prepare and file a patent. 3 days before Levi went in for surgery, we successfully filed for our first provisional patent. What a rush of emotion. We completed what we set out to do and now we would put my device to the test on my own child. I remember waiting in the waiting room while Levi was in surgery, praying that it would work. I was praying that my device would do its job and help my son. Levi’s Urologist came out after surgery to update us on how everything went and the first words out of his mouth were, “IT’S WORKING!!” What took Levi 2 1/2 weeks to heal from in January of that year with the existing device now took Levi 1 observation night in the hospital. He went home and healed beautifully with my invention.

My original goal was to help my son, but my goal has changed. Now I’m on a mission to help children all over the globe feel relief from pain and infection and have a chance to live more independently. I’m a momma on a mission to help other mommas who feel as helpless as I did.

WN: What progress have you made since January?

Sarah: The device is being put through a New Product Development Process for medical devices frame work known as “Stage Gate” to make sure that the prototype I designed will be in compliance with the medical device industry requirements. This Stage Gate NPD frame work is a process comprised of well defined stages. Each stage has a specific purpose within the process. The stages we have completed in this last year are:

a) Conceptualization and Prototyping
b) Market segment Feasibility Study
c) IP protection and branding strategy
d) Raw Material Integration Process
e) Manufacturing Integration
f) Biocompatibility Testing in animals

We are now beginning:

g) Clinical Validation through a Phase II Clinical Trials in Humans
h) Commercialization Process split in 3 stages: i) Pre-Launch ii) Launch iii) Post-Launch

We have come a LONG way. We refuse to cut corners and are dedicated to creating a legitimate medical device recognized internationally as a device that has the potential to change the way children are treated in Urology.

WN: We know the Amber Grant funds will go towards clinical trials. How long do you anticipate that period taking?

Sarah: There are lots of variables to the length of time it can take. We expect anywhere between 1-2 years if we continue to stay on track and move forward the way we have been. Again, we are extremely dedicated to doing exactly what it takes to make the device safe and effective for kids. It’s a process, but a process we are very careful to complete well.

WN: How do you plan to monetize your device?

Sarah: We are in conversations with several straight catheters manufactures to execute a strategic alliance where we can speed up the market penetration process. My goal is to get the LECS to market as quickly as possible so that it can start helping kids the way it has helped my son.

WN: How is Levi?

Sarah: He is doing well. He will always have physical battles, but what matters most is that he’s mentally tough. He can’t control his body, but we teach him that he is able to control his mind and his attitude towards his condition. Let me tell you, Spina Bifida does not slow him down often. He lives with an incredible amount of pain a lot of the time, but you may never know it. He fights hard to turn his pain into power. He desperately wants to be just like any other 5 year old boy. He’s my hero.

WN: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Sarah: What I’ve accomplished could not have been possible without the incredible talent and genius of the team of people that I work with. They are incredibly gifted and have a heart for the mission of this project. They have an intense focus on giving back and making a difference on this planet with the talents they’ve been given and knowledge they’ve acquired from successfully taking other devices to market. People frequently comment on what I’ve done in inventing the LECS (Levi External Catheter Stabilizer), but I will whole heartedly admit that the main thing I focused on was surrounding myself with people that are far better than me. I’ve worked very hard to become what I’ve had to become to lead a project like this, but I’m grateful for a team that makes me look as good as they do. The entire Levity team deserves an enormous amount of credit for what has been accomplished. As a team, we will complete this mission and give hope to those who suffer as Levi did.

November Amber Grant Awarded to Anahata Collaborative

Friday, December 8th, 2017

Last Friday, we shared our November Grant finalists.

As always, the WomensNet community made our decision a difficult one.

But today, we’re happy to put November Grant winner Lara Cornell, Founder and Owner of Anahata Collaborative, in the spotlight.

Continue on to read about her truly multidimensional business…

Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Founder/Owner Lara Cornell.

WN: How did Anahata Collaborative come about and what purpose does it serve?

LC: Anahata Collaborative came from my own personal journey into finding my heart centered career path. With a background in retail, management and international travel, I recently added the title of artist and wellness professional (with various wellness certifications) on top of it. Over the past couple years people started to ask me what I was going to do with all my new skills. My answer was always “I don’t know, but I know it’s going to be a space. Some sort of space for art and wellness to come together”. The vision for this space changed throughout the next couple years from a local maker retail shop, to a yoga studio, to an art studio… and eventually I realized it’s just that, a space. Anahata (which refers to the Heart Chakra in sanskrit) Collaborative was to be a space for art and wellness to blend together. After all, art is healing, and healing is art. This space would encourage collaboration, such as a photographer collaborating with a nutritionist and see what they come up with. Or a painter and yoga teacher. Or a writer and an energy worker. The combinations are as endless as the possibilities. Through collaboration we grow and we find new and unique ways to build our careers and reach out community. We aim to explore the intersection between art and wellness and bring our discovery out into the greater community through a variety of ways including “doing good” and giving from our Heart Chakra as well. Our goal is to encourage collaboration, discussion, discovery, and help heart centered entrepreneurs build their own businesses so they can show up to the world as their best selves and be able to make a difference.

WN: What type of response have you received from the community?

LC: My community has been incredible! I’ve been meeting so many amazing people whom I would never have met if I had not started this project. A lot of this is still in the infancy stage since we just opened this fall and we are still meeting and listening with our target audience to better understand their needs. I have begun partnering with non-profits in the area who support the arts, wellbeing, small business entrepreneurs and others. We had our first Local Maker Market pop-up shop this past week, which was a great success. I look forward to having more of these in the future! We are also expanding our collaborations in order to provide more business classes to our members as well as a speaker series for the upcoming year. We have opened up our venue to encourage more events such as Offbeat weddings, and corporate team building events (with offerings in art and wellness). It seems like every day there is a new idea (gallery shows, music series, women’s empowerment offerings, and more), and it’s been incredibly inspiring.

WN: Are there any other collaboratives in your area?

LC: Minneapolis is blessed to have an abundance of creative people and be a community conscious of health and wellbeing. There are many online groups, as well as groups which meet once a month or less, and an active arts district. Anahata Collaborative, however, is unique in that it encourages the blending of art and wellness and strives to bring them together, in addition to helping people in these fields build their businesses and be successful. We also aim to gather and collaborate on a weekly basis helping entrepreneurs keep accountable, inspired, and educated.

WN: Who would you consider your competition (if anyone)?

LC: Coworking spaces are becoming very popular in Minneapolis, but Anahata isn’t exactly a coworking space even if people are working in the space. It’s a true collaborative community with a large focus on helping our members and bringing them together, while doing good in the community.

WN: What are your plans for the grant funds and the future of Anahata Collaborative?

LC: With this grant we will be hosting a farm-to-table dinner for a select group of artists and wellness professionals. Anahata Collaborative will be teaming up with an art non-profit as well as a school of wellness to open up the discussion on the intersection of art and wellness. We will intentionally select different types of artist and different types of wellness professionals so we have a variety of skills and resources. What we want to uncover is how art and wellness intersect, how we can bring it out into the community, the benefits of blending these two fields together, and how to help entrepreneurs in these particular fields build their businesses (unique challenges, obstacles, needs, how they are similar, how they differ). After this dinner, with additional grant money, we would like to implement our findings. We foresee business classes agreed upon to be beneficial, community gatherings/events, and continued discussions/panels/presentations on this intersection through local museums and wellness schools which would also facilitate community outreach. If it permits, we’d really enjoy collaborating with some unique non-profits doing work pertaining to this particular intersection.

WN: What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?

LC: Follow your heart. It’s going to be really hard, and bumpy, and you’re going to feel insane at times, but keep going. Your heart knows the way.

Thanks for reading, and a huge thank you to Lara for her time. If you’re interested in applying for the December Grant, get started today